Storylines of the 2014 World Cup Group Stage
Posted by: Shane Evans
There is plenty to know about the World Cup Group Stage. Here are a few of the key stories that came from Friday's World Cup draw.
Four years ago, I was sitting on my couch in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania (yes, that’s a real place) and watched with great pleasure as my two footballing nations, England and the United States, were drawn together for the group stage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Early on Friday morning I was again on my couch, this time in Seattle’s Central District, and witnessed two painful scenarios unfold for both countries.
England, barely an afterthought heading into next summer’s tournament in Brazil, were grouped with perennial powerhouse Italy, 2010 fourth-place side Uruguay and a very tricky Costa Rican bunch. No easy task.
Across the pond, things were not nearly as sunny as the United States, my adopted homeland, were presented with the herculean task of advancing from a group featuring Germany, old friends Ghana and The United Republic of Cristiano Ronaldo (aka Portugal). Easily the toughest group of the eight in the tournament.
That, my friends, is just the tippy top of the iceberg. The storylines that came out of the draw are seemingly endless. And given that I am the way that I am, I want to inform you all regarding some of the major narratives that will ever-so-slowly unfold over the next six months…before the brazuca (the 2014 World Cup match ball) is even kicked. In order of the groups, of course, here are a few of the highlights:
Group A (Brazil, Mexico, Croatia, Cameroon)
Host nation Brazil are the favorites for the tournament. Hands down. They haven’t lost a competitive match on home soil since 1975. That’s nearly FORTY YEARS. Chances that changes next summer in the pandemonium that is the World Cup? Slim to none…and slim went to watch Brazil win its games. Mexico snuck into the tournament at the last minute and should potentially be seen as a favorite to be the runner-up in this group ahead of Cameroon and a spotty Croatia side.
Group B (Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia)
Thought the 2010 World Cup was fun? How about a rematch of that epic final between Spain and Netherlands on the second day of 2014’s tournament? Nigel de Jong may not be there so we’ll be short a little Kung Fu…but maybe we’ll see some Capoeira instead, given the host nation and all. Regardless, a very interesting group with a hot Chile (see what I did there?) rounding out the top three with Australia probably preferring to stay home.
Still have to bank on Spain and Netherlands to advance, despite the Oranje’s dedication to self-implosion on the international stage.
Group C (Colombia, Ivory Coast, Japan, Greece)
One of the softer groups in the tournament - Colombia, Ivory Coast, Japan and Greece will battle it out. Could provide some of the most entertaining soccer here though as the four squads are pretty evenly matched. Colombia should be the favorite and, if Drogba is on (this will be his last World Cup…so he will be), Ivory Coast should follow.
Also, someone get Colombia boss Jose Pekerman to a few Sporting CP matches. They have this guy Fredy Montero who is doing real good stuff right now.
Group D (Italy, England, Uruguay, Costa Rica)
England’s tough Group D is up next. The Three Lions met Italy in last summer’s Euro 2012 tournament at the quarterfinal stage, and as England tends to do, it was defeated in an elimination match, though not without a spirited display. Should be another good pairing at the World Cup as the two traditional powers always put on a show.
Speaking of a show, Uruguay is led by Luis Suarez, Liverpool’s mercurial frontman. A man who is in the news for all kinds of reasons, he will definitely be a handful for all other teams in the group…and that’s not even mentioning PSG’s fantastic Edinson Cavani.
Tough luck Costa Rica. Won’t be CONCACAF’s best showing.
Group E (Switzerland, France, Honduras, Ecuador)
France sneaks into the World Cup through the playoffs after being on the edge against the Ukraine…and now this. A very manageable group for Les Bleus featuring a Switzerland side who should finish in second place with the two remaining clubs pushing the top half of the group. Definitely one primed for upsets.
Group F (Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria)
Leo Messi and Argentina are the class of this group by far. Nigeria didn’t always impress through qualifying and Bosnia and Herzegovina had the easiest UEFA group of the lot.
This is the year that Messi needs to prove himself on the international level. Argentina haven’t made it past the quarterfinals of the World Cup with him in the team and haven’t made a final since 1990. Doing it on the home turf of its biggest rival would be a huge boost to Messi’s credentials and may finally help pull him out of Maradona’s shadow.
Group G (Germany, Portugal, Ghana, United States)
You could write a book on the storylines that are overflowing out of this group. Literally pouring over the edges. The U.S. media is going to have a six-month field day.
First of, we have Germany. The model football nation on planet earth. From top to bottom, few do it better than the Germans. A product of said pristine system is none other than USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, one of the European nation’s BEST EVER talents. That sure is saying something considering it has won three World Cups and three European Championships. Klinsmann is third overall in the team’s scoring charts with 47 goals in 108 matches. He also won the 1990 World Cup and Euro 1996
But it gets better…
While coaching the German national team from 2004-2006, Klinsmann’s assistant was Joachim Low, the man who followed him into the hot seat, and the man who essentially is his apprentice. This is like soccer Star Wars and I haven’t even made it to Ghana.
The African side has played a huge role in the USA’s fate over the last two World Cups as it knocked it of the quarterfinals in 2010 and the Group Stage in 2006. Just something about those Black Stars that we can’t figure out.
And Portugal…they have Ronaldo who is [American company] Nike’s biggest soccer athlete by a massive stretch and who has often stated his love for the States. To further that, we beat the European side in the group stage of the 2002 World Cup, which put it on the road to elimination in the tournament.
So yeah, Group G is a good one.
Group H (Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea)
Another of the weaker groups in the tournament, Group H is led by the scintillating talents of Belguim, who has quickly risen in many people’s minds as being one of the world’s top talents. Hazard, Lukaku, Witsel are a few names to watch in what could be a very good group stage for the Belgians. Russia should finish second but you never know with those South Koreans who had an unforgettable run to the semifinals in 2002.
Shane Evans is the Digital Media Manager of SoundersFC.com
Follow him on Twitter for all the latest Sounders content.